Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Star Wars Rebels" Brings A New Hope to The Galaxy!

Things cannot get any geekier than this for Red Dot Diva.

A few days ago, she was invited to watch a special screening of new animated series, "Star Wars Rebels" at The Sandcrawler - the regional headquarters of Lucasfilm's campus on the Red Dot Island.

The Sandcrawler has the familiar shape of those giant vehicular fortresses manned by Jawas for transportation and shelter in the desertlands of Tatooine. Earlier this year, George Lucas himself was here in the building, together with Kathleen Kennedy and Red Dot Island's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for its unveiling. (Check out the article of their visit here.)

It was Red Dot Diva's first time visiting The Sandcrawler and she was very excited to be able to step into the hallowed grounds of Lucasfilm, and walked where George Lucas walked. After all, "Star Wars" was the first scifi movie that captured her childhood imagination, and it was also her very first major fandom. That love for "Star Wars" has never died, enduring even those last 3 disappointing movies that older die-hard fans want to mostly forget ever existed.

The building itself is a beauty with a mix of interesting curves and clean-lined structures. Large ceiling-to-floor glass windows line the corridors, letting a lot of sunlight in. On the ground floor, in between the two segments of the building, is a lush public garden. (More on that later.) And Red Dot Diva scored extra geek points for standing at the elevator lobby - it was like waiting for a spaceship airlock to open! Ahhhh!

Red Dot Diva and Ed of Toys-etc were one of the first few to arrive at the auditorium for the special screening. Not long after, more invited guests found their way to the venue, and they were mostly the "usual suspects", like 2/3 Here Be Geeks, Geek Crusade, Sarahcoldheart, Jedd and Come See Toys. For awhile there, it felt like STGCC Part 2 all over again!

At the entrance of auditorium were big colourful "Star Wars Rebels" banners and a few life-sized statues of the new characters who will be introduced in the series.

Imperial stormtroopers and guards milled around, making sure everyone behaved. Red Dot Diva felt a bit more assured when the Jedi Knights arrived. However, ever the playful terror, she had to say hello to the baddest of them all --- the Inquisitor, who was glowering silently near the auditorium's doorway. (He wasn't amused, but Red Dot Diva was most probably useful to his mission because she is still alive and breathing... )


Not long after, two of the main characters in the show Ezra and Sabine (played by models who looked amazingly similar to their digital versions) made their appearance for photo ops. There was ample time for everyone to take selfies, group shots and generally, to have a lot of fun wielding lightsabers!

There's always time for biceps flexing in the Galaxy

He'll be able to protect me, right??

"Star Wars Rebels": A Quick Intro
Prior to the screening, Red Dot Diva caught the online trailers and video features about  "Star Wars Rebels" to get a feel about what the show was about.

At that time, she was not sure if she was going to get excited about the new show because for many years, there has not really been an animated series which she has taken a liking to. Her fears were unfounded. "Star Wars Rebels" is an utter delight to watch!

The show's timeline happens between Episode III and IV, when the Galactic Empire is still sweeping across the galaxy wielding a great deal of power and doing all those evil things they love to do - like strict control of trade routes, slavery and massacres.

In a remote planet called Lothal, a motley crew of the spaceship "Ghost" endeavors to take a stand against the Empire and attempt to relieve the sufferings of those who have been unjustly oppressed by the ruling faction.

A bunch of clich├ęd characters form this nifty crew. They are:

The Leader: handsome pony-tailed cowboy Jedi Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr), who holds a special secret that few people know of
The Pilot: Hera (Vanessa Marshall), a strong-willed Twi'lek whose motherly disposition is the heart of the "Ghost" crew
The Muscle: Zeb (Steve Blum) throws a mean punch, but his brutish alien appearance belie the fact that he is also an agile fighter.
The Weapons Expert: A Mandalorian called Sabine Wren (Tiya Sirear) who knows how to rig those explosives very well and tags her "work" with graffiti. She is feisty, nimble, artistic and fast-becoming Red Dot Diva's favourite character in the SW Universe.
The Robot (also the comic relief): Astromech droid Chopper is a grumpy little thing tasked to keeping the "Ghost" systems operable. He's definitely not like his industrious and amiable distant cousin, R2-D2. Chopper's droid arms adds extra expressions of frustration when he is not in a helpful mood to his human crew-mates.
The Newbie/ Kid: Thief and con artist Ezra (Taylor Gray) is 14 years old. He has learned how to fend for himself after he was orphaned. Ezra is not a brat though. Through the other crew members, he learned about fighting the good fight and more about the mysterious energy that he feels within him.

A Short Review of "Star Wars Rebels" (Spoiler-free)
"Star Wars Rebels" is a fun ride right from the start. The action begins from the upstart with a cleverly planned heist, lasergun fights, vehicular chases and the heroic entrance of a hovering "Ghost" that in turn, leads to a narrow escape and more gunfights in space. In that opening sequence, almost all the new characters are deftly introduced to the audience. Plus, each of the "Ghost" crew is instantly likeable and there is a nice chemistry between them that reminded Red Dot Diva of the group dynamics in "Guardians of the Galaxy".

What Red Dot Diva likes best about "Star Wars Rebels" is the feeling of SW nostalgia that lovingly envelopes this episode. The slow ominous cruising of the Imperial Star Destroyer across Lothal's grasslands gave her the chills. The movement of spaceship "Ghost" was akin to "The Millennium Falcon" and Ezra's smarts and quick one-liners reminded her of a young Han Solo.

As in the original SW trilogy, the ace villains like Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo), are awfully uptight and British. That included The Big Bad - an almost sith-like humanoid called The Inquistor (Jason Isaacs), whose scarily impressive demeanour is revealed in the last few seconds of the episode.

Explosives expert Sabine kicks-ass

There is also much tribute to John Williams' majestic score which will warm any SW fan's heart. It is put into good use at a poignant scene featuring ahologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The show has familiar references and terms including a fake prisoner scene... *wink wink*. These are just a few classic motifs that dot the production of "Star Wars Rebels" even when there are no princesses in sight..... yet. Instead, in place are two engaging female characters - Hera and Sabine - who take up a fair amount of screen time being in the thick of the action. Another big plus point in Red Dot Diva's books.

Another wonderful feature is the general look of "Star Wars Rebels" which gives well-deserved nods to the works of talented Star Wars concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. The rounded domed buildings, rolling hills and grasslands of Lothal were based on McQuarrie's vision of the planet Alderaan (see pic below). So too are the character designs for Jeb and Chopper.

There are just a couple of nitpicks Red Dot Diva has concerning the animation in "Star Wars Rebels". Probably due to budgetary and time constraints, there is notably less detail overall, and some places like the Lothal market looked way too spic and span. Well unless, perhaps... the Empire *does* hire a lot of cleaning droids.

The rendering of the character's hair made it move like the texture of rubber strips. But the main bugbear Red Dot Diva has is the show's rendition of fur, especially those of a certain breed of tall forest creatures (no spoilers, right?!) which appears too glossy and has a waxy-like quality to it. That said, the animation style in "Star Wars Rebels" is much "warmer" and easier on the eyes, and Red Dot Diva thought the characters look less unnerving than the stylized marionette angles of those in "Clone Wars".

Still, it is difficult to fault the passion and love the production team has put into "Star Wars Rebels" The opening episode is quite the confident start to a swashbuckling adventure and as aptly summarized by Obi-Wan Kenobi: "Our future is uncertain, but in time, a New Hope will emerge."

Needless to say, after the screening, Red Dot Diva the big Star Wars fan, went home with a huge grin on her face. But not before she paid her respects to Jedi Master Yoda, who can be found amidst contemplative trickling pools and swaying fronds of palm trees in the public garden.

The Force is Strong in This Garden


"Star Wars Rebels" is created by Dave Filoni of  "Star Wars: The Clone Wars", Simon Kinberg ("X-Men: Days of Future Past", "Sherlock Holmes", "Elysium") and Carrie Beck. In addition, Greg Weisman, who is known for his work in "Gargoyles", also has a hand in the series as Executive Producer. Kevin Kiner is responsible for the theme and musical score for the series.

The first episode premieres as part of a one-hour "Star Wars Rebels Special" on Disney Channel Asia on 4 October 11 AM and on Disney XD on 5 October 8 AM. The series will begin its run beginning 29 November, 12 PM on Disney Channel and 30 November 8:30 AM on Disney XD.

Have a peek of the "Star Wars Rebels" trailer here!

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